My own earliest experience of playing music for violin and cello goes back to the early 1950’s when I was a member of an orchestra that performed the Brahms Double Concerto. I learned to thoroughly love that piece.
Now we have a new recording of music for these two instruments by several other composers:
Passacaglia for Violin & Cello/Viola (after Handel)
Duo for Violin and Cello, Op. 7
Sonata for Violin & Cello
Duo for violin & cello
All performed by Julia Fischer (violin) and Daniel Müller-Schott (cello)
The works heard in this program were written surprisingly late:
Kodály 1914; Ravel 1922; Schulhoff 1925. Although these three works can scarcely be regarded as avant-garde for their time, at least where their tonality is concerned, a new spirit is in the air: a freely ranging search on all levels for new forms and means of expression, coupled with a love of experimentation with extremely sparse scoring. It is also noteworthy that all three works succeed in their own way in reflecting a national character in their musical idiom.
Ravel offers typical trompe-l’oreille subtlety while retaining immaculately groomed French elegance; Kodály writes against a background of ethnological research in folk music; Schulhoff stands out for the way he experiments with complex combinations of rhythms.
However, the pioneering work in a distinctive violin-cello repertoire was surely written a generation earlier: Brahms’ concerto for this ‘eight-stringed giant’ of 1887. It was a performance of his work that brought Julia Fischer and Daniel Müller-Schott together on the concert platform for the first time. In fact, both artists wish this CD release to represent a record of their work together as a duo over the past ten years and more, as the pair explain in an extended conversation with Meret Forster printed in the accompanying booklet.
It is already the case that performances of the Brahms Double Concerto by Fischer and Müller-Schott now almost inevitably lead the audience to expect the immortal Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia of 1894 – a demand that is gladly met. This congenial enlargement by the Norwegian violinist and composer Johan Halvorsen (1864-1935) of a passacaglia from a Handel suite for harpsichord exists in various pairings of violin, viola and cello. It accentuates the infectious vigour of the original in a remarkably clever manner by its highly challenging but idiomatic transposition to two quite differently characterized and mutually supportive instruments.
The Guardian wrote in July,,2016:
“they play [the Ravel and the Kodály] with such energy, engagement and virtuoso precision that there’s never any hint of overfamiliarity; in both works, every detail of the extremely demanding string writing is carefully etched, and captured with tingling immediacy in the recording.”
Here are the performers in the Passacaglia by Johann Halvorsen: